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Live updates: Kansas becomes first U.S. state to close schools for the rest of the academic year

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 3/18/2020 Siobhán O'Grady, Rick Noack, Alex Horton, Miriam Berger, Kim Bellware, Meryl Kornfield, Derek Hawkins, Michael Brice-Saddler
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The rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak continued to upend life around the world Tuesday as more countries tightened quarantine measures.

Confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, which has rapidly spread across the United States in a matter of weeks, have now been reported in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. West Virginia became the last state to confirm its first case Tuesday. At least 100 people infected with the virus have died in the U.S. — a toll that experts expect to rise quickly.

Schools, offices, bars, restaurants and many stores remain closed across major U.S. and European cities, and dozens of countries are shutting their borders or implementing mandatory self-isolation for travelers arriving from abroad. 

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9:18 PM: Supermarkets limit shoppers as FDA officials warn against excessive buying

The novel coronavirus has pitched grocers onto the front lines of an accelerating public health crisis, forcing many chains to reduce hours and put buying caps on such high-demand foods as ground beef and frozen pizzas. Now some chains and independent grocers are restricting the number of shoppers in their stores or offering hours only for the elderly.

In a statement Tuesday, FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn discussed additional steps to help preserve the food supply chain as “grocery stores face unprecedented demand.”

“While we are confident that stores will remain open and supply will continue to meet demand nationwide, we ask all Americans to only purchase enough food and essentials for the week ahead,” Hahn said.

Industry experts and trade groups say it’s only a matter of time before supermarkets take even more drastic measures, as they look for ways to curb the spread of the highly contagious virus among customers and employees. Many are looking abroad for guidance.

In Italy, Lidl is capping stores to 20 shoppers at a time, who are limited to 10-minute slots. In the United Kingdom, some supermarkets are opening an hour early, at 8 a.m., to accommodate elderly shoppers, who are at higher risk if they contract the virus.

In China, at the height of its outbreak, stores checked customers’ temperatures at the door and required them to stand at least three feet apart from others in line.

U.S. chains such as Kroger, Walmart and Dollar General have already begun shortening store hours to allow employees enough time to restock and disinfect at the end of the day. Costco said in an email to members on Tuesday that it would begin restricting the number of shoppers in stores in the interest of social distancing but did not provide details on how it would do so. Target announced it would reserve an hour on Wednesday mornings for elderly shoppers and those with underlying health conditions.

Read more here.

By: Abha Bhattarai and Michael Brice-Saddler

9:16 PM: Diamond Princess food workers were especially vulnerable to coronavirus spread, study shows

After the novel coronavirus arrived on the Diamond Princess with a passenger in Japan, it spread quickly among crew members who made food for their fellow workers, a new study shows.

The first known infected crew member was a food service worker who developed a fever on Feb. 2, tested positive for the virus and was allowed off the ship two days later. By Feb. 9, there were 20 cases among crew who sought medical attention. Of those 20, 15 prepared food for other crew.

“The crew dining area was identified as the primary area of congregation for the crew; passengers did not have access to this part of the ship,” said the study, which was released Tuesday in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Slideshow by photo services

Even after passengers were quarantined on Diamond Princess, crew members kept working, delivering meals to passengers, doing their regular jobs and staying in their cabins when they weren’t working, the report says. Any crew who showed symptoms had to stay in their cabins.

Ultimately, more than 700 people on the ship tested positive for coronavirus. The first passengers who tested positive were people who developed symptoms on Jan. 22 and remained on the ship when it arrived in Yokohama on Feb. 3, along with someone who developed symptoms Jan. 23 and got off the ship two days later. That passenger’s case was identified on Feb. 1.

The report only addresses the initial phase of the investigation into the spread among crew members from Feb. 4-12.

Interviews with nine infected crew members indicated that the virus apparently spread among people who lived on the third deck and worked in food service, “probably through contact or droplet spread,” according to the study. Eight of the 20 initial crew members with confirmed cases shared a cabin; five of those eight cabin mates had also developed the illness as of March 4.

By: Hannah Sampson

9:13 PM: Facebook is blocking legitimate posts about the coronavirus; company executive says it’s a technical glitch

Facebook on Tuesday evening appeared to be marking posts and articles about the coronavirus from reputable news sites as spam, prompting a flurry of complaints from confused users.

Articles from the Atlantic, Politico, BuzzFeed News, USA Today and other outlets suddenly started disappearing, according to numerous users who posted about the issue on Twitter. An automated warning said that the posts violated community standards against “false advertising, fraud and security breaches.”

After Facebook’s former chief security officer Alex Stamos tweeted about the issue, a Facebook vice president of integrity Guy Rosen responded that the problem stemmed from a bug in an anti-spam system.

“We’re on this,” Rosen wrote just before 8 p.m. “We’re in the process of fixing and bringing all these posts back. More soon.”

A Facebook representative did not immediately return a request for comment.

The apparent glitch came a day after Facebook ordered thousands of content moderators to work from home in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Rosen said the removal of the posts was “unrelated to any changes in our content moderator workforce.”

Facebook has been trying to beat back misinformation about the coronavirus that has proliferated on its platform since the beginning of the pandemic. In January, the company announced that it would remove posts, photos and videos that peddle falsehoods about the outbreak.

The company has also temporarily banned advertisements for face masks and other medical equipment to curb price gouging during the public health crisis.

By: Derek Hawkins

8:34 PM: Mental health experts offer counsel on staying calm during the outbreak

The coronavirus pandemic is becoming a brutal psychological test. This public health crisis can take a mental toll, especially on people struggling with anxiety, depression and other conditions.

One common emotion that might not be immediately obvious: grief.

“Right now people are feeling grief over the loss of routines, certainty, and a perception of themselves as being generally healthy and protected,” says psychiatrist Joshua Morganstein, the chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Committee on Psychiatric Dimensions of Disasters.

He and other mental health experts say there are steps people can take to ease some of that anxiety. “Things like getting good sleep, eating regularly, staying hydrated, exercising. When we take care of our body… our ability to think clearly, our ability to solve problems, our ability to manage our emotions, are all optimized,” Morganstein said.

Kathy HoganBruen, a Washington-based clinical psychologist specializing in anxiety disorders, echoes that advice: “Now is the time to start establishing some healthy habits.”

Joshua Gordon, a neuroscientist and psychiatrist who is the director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suggests that everyone develop a plan for how to deal with this moment. It’s a form of mental therapy.

“Having conversations with your family about what they can do to protect themselves and also what they can do to stay active, physically and socially, can be therapeutic in and of itself,” Gordon told The Washington Post.

Read the full story here.

By: Joel Achenbach

8:20 PM: Kansas becomes first U.S. state to close schools for the rest of the academic year

Kansas on Tuesday became the first state to close K-12 schools for the rest of the academic year, in a drastic step to combat the coronavirus that will upend life for hundreds of thousands of families.

“The reality of this pandemic is that it cannot be controlled statewide if school buildings return to normal operations or if they respond inconsistently within our local communities,” Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) said in a news conference. “Unprecedented circumstances threaten the safety of our students and the professionals who work with them every day, and we must respond accordingly.”

In-person instruction will stop for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, while administrative offices and support facilities remain open for “limited purposes,” Kelly said.

After being sanitized, some school buildings will be reopened to allow small groups of staff to draw up plans for how instruction might continue, according to the governor. All school employees will continue to be paid.

Kelly offered few details about what the closures will mean for students’ education, saying she was awaiting recommendations from a state task force.

“But today’s actions will give educators and parents a sense of what’s coming,” she said, “so they can begin to adapt and make plans as needed.”

Dozens of states and localities have ordered schools to close temporarily in response to the pandemic, affecting some 40 million students across the country, according to Education Week. Others could soon join Kansas in closing schools for the rest of the year.

By: Derek Hawkins

8:11 PM: NASA orders employees outside of mission-essential personnel to telework

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Tuesday ordered employees and contractors, except for mission-essential personnel, to telework, an action he said would help curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

In a statement, Bridenstine said that “a limited amount of employees” had tested positive for the coronavirus but that “it is imperative that we take this pre-emptive step to thwart further spreading of the virus among the workforce and our communities.”

The decision comes as many of the nation’s 2.1 million federal employees continue to go to work, even as health officials have urged social distancing and telework whenever possible, creating widespread anxiety for those who believe they are putting themselves or others at risk.

“NASA’s early and thoughtful actions in coordination with our country’s unified response to this health emergency is an incredible display of national solidarity,” Bridenstine wrote. “Please make certain you are giving the appropriate attention to your health and that of your family.”

By: Michael Brice-Saddler

7:45 PM: Americans stranded in Morocco amid mass confusion over travel bans

Sixty-two-year-old Rhonda Klein wants her vacation to end. But she can’t figure out how to get home.

The Atlanta-based lawyer is one in a tour group of 12 Americans stranded in Marrakesh, Morocco, unsure how to leave a day after much of the country went into a sudden lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Klein has been frantically calling the State Department and members of Congress, she said, but so far they have not been able to do much.

“The State Department has not been of any help,” she told The Washington Post. “Not only can no one tell us anything, but what we do get told is conflicting information.”

“We know we have a lot of congresspeople who are supposedly, and I’ll trust are, trying to help us,” she said. “But I think there’s only so much they can do, which isn’t a lot.”

A State Department official told The Post that it’s aware some countries have imposed new flight suspensions and it’s “considering all options to assist U.S. citizens in these countries and are continuously assessing travel conditions in all areas affected by COVID-19.”

Morocco on Sunday announced it was suspending all international flights and on Monday closed restaurants, mosques and entertainment centers.

That left Klein’s tour group, which also included a Canadian citizen, in a desperate bind as borders worldwide continued to close. Seven people in the group are 60 or older, and at least two people, including Klein, have a preexisting health condition, putting them in the most at-risk bracket. Klein said she needs a medication she cannot easily get in Morocco.

Before the trip, Klein had some apprehension about traveling during a global outbreak, but her overall sense was that Morocco would remain a relatively safe bet.

Since the border closed, she has watched Canadian tourists in similar situations find a way home, while she said she has struggled to get a straight answer from a U.S. official over what planes are flying into the United States.

“It’s a mess over here,” she said.

In February, the United States evacuated hundreds of U.S. citizens and residents from Wuhan, China, then the epicenter of the epidemic. Some evacuees described the journey as disorganized and frustrating.

In recent days, the United States has put in place bans on travelers from Europe, leaving U.S. citizens in a desperate dash to return on the few remaining outbound planes. Subsequent crowds arriving in U.S. airports have been packed together at customs, forced to violate the official directive to maintain a safe distance.

By: Miriam Berger

7:23 PM: Europe is closing borders to slow the coronavirus. Reopening them may be hard.

Modern Europe is built on the idea of binding countries together by stripping away borders. But in the space of just a week, the coronavirus pandemic has led countries to reimpose hard borders across the continent, challenging the European Union’s basic model in ways that may reverberate for years.

Until last week, citizens of the E.U. could move across the continent with ease, even as the virus slowly spread through its population. Just as a resident of Maryland can easily pack bags and head to Virginia, so, too, could a Pole cross into Germany.

The about-face in Europe is proving as disruptive as it would be if U.S. states imposed border controls on one another. And since Europe’s countries are no longer built for self-sufficiency and no country manufactures or grows everything it needs, the effect of the internal blockade could quickly become catastrophic.

Already, trucks trying to enter Poland from Germany were backed up 25 miles on Tuesday as Polish border guards checked drivers’ temperatures, overall health and documents before allowing them through.

Leaders of the E.U. institutions in Brussels, watching national leaders erect walls around their countries, have been desperately trying to keep the internal borders open, at least partially. One major risk, they say, is that medical supplies necessary to combat the novel coronavirus will pile up in trucks that have been stopped at national frontiers, hobbling Europe as it fights the crisis.

“For the E.U., this is really an existential threat,” said Stefano Stefanini, an Italian former diplomat who is a security consultant in Brussels. “If the E.U. is seen as not having done enough or not having cared enough or not having been up to the challenge, people will double down on the question of what is the E.U. for.”

Read the full story here.

By: Michael Birnbaum

7:02 PM: Coronavirus confirmed in all 50 states and D.C., after West Virginia confirms first case

Confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, which has rapidly spread across United States in a matter of weeks, have now been reported in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

West Virginia became the last state to confirm its first case Tuesday as local municipalities, state governments and the White House have worked to broaden testing access and implement mitigation protocols with the hope of slowing down the infection’s spread.

“Our health officials came to me and said we do have our first positive in the Eastern Panhandle,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) said in a news conference. “We knew it was coming. We’ve prepared for this, and we shouldn’t panic.”

Alabama, Idaho and Montana were among the final states to report covid-19 cases.

In a statement issued Wednesday evening, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) underscored the urgent need for additional testing in the state, which he said contains the highest percentage of adults 18 and over. As of yesterday, West Virginia had conducted 84 coronavirus tests and had just 500 tests available, he added.

Manchin said Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, had committed to supplying more tests.

“I am hearing from West Virginians across the state about being denied testing despite having physical symptoms,” Manchin wrote. “Medical professionals, community leaders and so many others are also reporting a shortage of the equipment they need to do their job safety.”

Manchin said he had also called on Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar to help better equip local medical personnel.

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 5,500 people and killed more than 100 in the United States since January, when the first confirmed case was reported in a Washington man who had traveled to Wuhan, China, to visit family.

By: Katie Mettler and Michael Brice-Saddler

6:57 PM: Chicago’s Midway airport issues ground stop after air traffic control technicians test positive

The air traffic control tower at Chicago’s Midway airport was temporarily closed Tuesday after several technicians tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.

The agency said it would clean the tower and reopen it, allowing flights to resume at reduced levels. A ground stop, an order halting new flights from taking off or departing for the airport, was issued just after 5 p.m. Tuesday.

“The air traffic system is a resilient system with multiple backups in place,” the agency said. “This shift is a regular execution of a longstanding contingency plan to ensure continued operations. Each facility across the country has a similar plan that has been updated and tested in recent years.”

The FAA said the airport remained open.

On Monday, the FAA disclosed that three other employees had been diagnosed.

By: Ian Duncan

6:41 PM: Trump’s Bedminster Club will close indefinitely

President Trump’s company has closed down its Bedminster golf club, the club told its members on Tuesday. That appeared to make Bedminster — the New Jersey club Trump visits often and calls his “Summer White House”— the first Trump property to close because of the novel coronavirus.

In an email to members of Trump Bedminster, obtained by The Washington Post, General Manager David Schutzenhofer said that the clubhouse, fitness center and restaurants are all closed. Schutzenhofer cited guidance on Monday from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), which limited gatherings to 50 people and required restaurants to close at 8 p.m. The only part of the club that will remain open, Schutzenhofer said, was one of the club’s two golf courses — but golfers would have to play it without caddies or motorized carts.

“Accounting and administrative offices will remain open, but we are staggering schedules and practicing social distancing,” Schutzenhofer said. “If staff members are able to work from home, we have encouraged them to do so.”

His email concluded with the admonition: “Wash your hands!”

Other Trump clubs have reduced services in recent days, according to messages to their members obtained by The Post. The Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida closed for a day of cleaning, and canceled the seafood buffet. Trump’s Northern Virginia golf club has closed its locker room, canceled the valet service, shut the steam room, and offered meals to go, according to an email sent to members last night. At Trump Doral, the spa has been closed.

The Trump Organization did not respond to questions about whether other clubs or Trump hotels would follow Bedminster and close, or whether employees at Trump Bedminster will be paid during the closure. Schutzenhofer’s email did not say when the club was expected to reopen.

By: David A. Fahrenthold

6:37 PM: DNC urges states to expand vote-by-mail to avoid more delays in primary calendar

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez is urging states to adopt vote-by-mail, no-excuse absentee voting and expanded polling place hours to prevent more delays in the primary calendar, after Ohio and four other states have rescheduled their elections in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“As our country deals with the uncertainty of COVID-19, it is critical that states provide clarity and not confusion, which could lead to disenfranchising voters,” Perez said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

Perez urged states to make vote-by-mail available to all registered voters. He also recommended the expansion of no-excuse absentee voting, “whereby a voter can either drop a ballot off at convenient locations or drop it in the mail.”

“And, where in-person voting can still take place under public health guidelines, states should expand days and hours of early voting to reduce lines,” he said.

Perez pointed to the confusion that has stemmed from Monday’s battle among Ohio officials over whether to postpone the state’s primary.

“What happened in Ohio last night has only bred more chaos and confusion, and the Democratic Party leadership in Ohio is working tirelessly to protect the right to vote,” he said. “Eligible voters deserve certainty, safety, and accessibility. That’s why states that have not yet held primary elections should focus on implementing the aforementioned measures to make it easier and safer for voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote, instead of moving primaries to later in the cycle when timing around the virus remains unpredictable.”

By: Michael Scherer and Felicia Sonmez

6:34 PM: Barr vows ‘severe’ action if foreign government is culprit behind disinformation campaign

Attorney General William P. Barr told the Associated Press on Tuesday that there would be swift and “severe” action if a foreign government was behind a disinformation campaign undertaken Sunday to cause fear in the United States over the coronavirus pandemic.

He also vowed punishment if a foreign government was responsible for a Sunday denial-of-service attempt on the computer networks of the Department of Health and Human Services.

He told the AP that the FBI was “very active, trying to determine” who was responsible for the cyber incident and the fake text messages spreading disinformation that President Trump was soon to impose a mandatory two-week national quarantine.

On Monday, Trump said there could be “some foreign groups that are playing games” with disinformation. But he said it “didn’t matter” because he had not decided to order a mandatory lockdown. “Hopefully we won’t have to,” he said.

Barr did not speculate which government might be behind either incident.

“When you’re dealing with something like a denial of service attack on HHS during a pandemic, that’s a very grave action for another country to take,” Barr told the AP. “So, if it is another country doing this, I’m sure the ramifications will be severe.”

By: Ellen Nakashima

5:59 PM: It’s ‘quarantini’ time. People say cheers to video happy hours when they’re stuck at home.

Unable to attend St. Patrick’s Day parades and pub crawls this year, people throughout the country are instead finding ways to drink together, alone, online.

Raising a glass virtually is taking off as people are discouraged from leaving their homes or gathering in large groups because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Amid physical “social distancing,” friends and co-workers are instead turning to video chats to socialize at a time when friendly faces and breaks from nonstop news can be hard to find. They are getting together with their regular happy hour crew, or with family members and people they haven’t seen in ages. Some are finding new friends to bond with over their shared unshakable sense of dread and a fondness for mezcal.

There’s even a new cocktail emerging online: the “quarantini.” Although its recipe varies, it is best served chilled in front of a laptop or smartphone camera and enjoyed with a twist of levity.

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has also occurred as people are more connected than ever, adding a new feeling of community in a time of crisis and potential isolation. Technology, including social media sites and smartphones, is enabling the quick sharing of information, memes and communication in a way that wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago.

Read more here.

By: Heather Kelly

5:59 PM: Researchers in Senegal say they’re working on a 10-minute coronavirus test that would cost $1

DAKAR, Senegal — In the race to invent a faster coronavirus test, the West African laboratory that made one of the world’s first yellow fever vaccines has teamed up with the British creator of the pee-on-a-stick pregnancy technology.

Researchers at the Pasteur Institute in coastal Senegal — a World Health Organization partner that has battled viral outbreaks for more than a century — say they are as little as three months away from releasing $1 diagnostic kits that can detect the respiratory disease in 10 minutes.

“People will be able to do it themselves,” said Amadou Sall, the institute’s director. The Pasteur Institute is partnering with Mologic, a British firm founded by the father of the Clearblue pregnancy test.

The pregnancy-test model is used in malaria and HIV test kits worldwide: Patients drop samples of blood or saliva onto the devices and wait for a bold line to appear.

More than 200 companies are working to develop similarly speedy tests, according to the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics in Geneva, which is tracking progress. None has met the international standard for shelf life and accuracy yet.

Between manufacturing facilities in Dakar and the United Kingdom, the team expects to produce 8 million tests annually, said Joe Fitchett, Mologic’s medical director.

“The idea,” he said, “is we make it available as widely as possible.”

Read more here.

By: Danielle Paquette

5:56 PM: Superintendents lash out over conflicting guidance on school closures

The national association of superintendents called on the federal government to clarify its “ever-evolving” recommendations regarding school closures, saying that school leaders are getting conflicting information about whether and for how long to shut down schools amid the coronavirus crisis.

“It is imperative that information available from the federal government be clear, concise and consistent,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA, the School Superintendents Association, in a statement Tuesday. He said it is critical that local leaders are not left asking “What?” when they review federal recommendations.

For instance, he said, on Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against gatherings of more than 50 people but made it clear that that did not apply to schools. Then, on Monday, President Trump advised against gatherings of more than 10 people.

“Given the average classroom is nearly twice the size recommended by the president, and that an individual school often enrolls well more than the CDC-recommended 50-person threshold, school system leaders are rightfully asking, ‘Why are the numbers different, why do the numbers not apply to schools, and what does this really mean for schools?’ ” Domenech said.

On Tuesday, the CDC canceled a scheduled briefing on the matter with the superintendents’ association that some hoped would clarify things.

As of midday Tuesday, 38 states had moved to close all public schools, according to a tally by Education Week. Combined with district closures in other states, at least 38.8 million students in 74,000 schools have been affected.

And yet, these decisions appear at odds with CDC guidance issued last week, and some public health experts are questioning whether the widespread closures make sense at all.

For instance, the CDC guidelines advised that short- and medium-term school closures (as most states have announced) do not affect the spread of the virus and that evidence from other countries shows places that closed schools, such as Hong Kong, “have not had more success in reducing spread than those that did not,” such as Singapore.

Read more about the scientific debate over school closings here.

By: Laura Meckler

5:40 PM: Pentagon to free up 5 million respirator masks, 2,000 ventilators

The Defense Department will give up to 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 deployable ventilators to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Pentagon chief said Tuesday, as the military expands its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said the respirators and ventilators will come from the U.S. military’s strategic reserves.

“The first 1 million masks will be made available immediately,” he said, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon.

Esper also confirmed reports that the Navy is preparing its two hospital ships to assist efforts but added that they are designed to treat trauma and do not have the segregated areas needed to treat infectious diseases.

By: Dan Lamothe

5:22 PM: Coronavirus looks different in kids than in adults

A study released this week in the journal Pediatrics provides the clearest confirmation yet that coronavirus infections are, in fact, generally less severe in kids, with more than 90 percent of 2,143 children in the study in China having mild to moderate disease or even being asymptomatic.

But it contains worrisome information about one subset — infants — and suggests that children may be a critical factor in the disease’s rapid spread.

Pediatrics associate editors Andrea Cruz and Steve Zeichner, both physicians, say the study suggests “children may play a major role in community-based viral transmission.”

The data suggests children may have more symptoms that make them contagious, like a runny nose, and that they may have more gastrointestinal symptoms, which raises concerns about the virus being in the feces for several weeks after infection.

Adam Ratner, a doctor in pediatric infectious diseases at NYU Langone Health, said the clear takeaway from the study is that the novel coronavirus “is still something that has the ability to cause severe disease across the age spectrum.”

Read more here.

By: Ariana Eunjung Cha

5:03 PM: Kevin Durant among four Brooklyn Nets players to test positive for coronavirus

The number of NBA players with confirmed cases of the coronavirus rose to seven Tuesday when the Brooklyn Nets announced that four of their players had tested positive. Kevin Durant was one of the four Nets players to test positive but has been asymptomatic, according to the Athletic.

According to the Nets, only one of the four players, who were not identified by the team, has exhibited symptoms. The Nets have advised all players and members of their traveling party to “remain isolated, closely monitor their health and maintain constant communication” with medical staff, according to a statement.

“Everyone be careful, take care of yourself and quarantine,” Durant told the Athletic. “We’re going to get through this.”

The four Nets players join three players — Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, and Christian Wood of the Detroit Pistons — who had previously tested positive for coronavirus. Gobert’s positive test last week led the NBA to suspend its 2019-20 season.

Read more here.

By: Ben Golliver

4:55 PM: Algeria bans anti-government protests as part of coronavirus response

For a year, Algerians have been marching against the odds for political change. They brought down longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. They challenged the military’s firm grasp on politics. They kept up the pressure and calls for democracy.

Then coronavirus came. On Tuesday, Algeria’s president banned mass gatherings and marches as part of new restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of coronavirus in the North African country of 40 million.

“The lives of citizens are above all considerations even if this requires restricting some freedoms,” President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said in television broadcast, according to Reuters.

Algeria has so far reported 60 coronavirus cases and five deaths from the covid-19 disease. Most infections have centered in a town southwest of the capital, Algiers, according to Reuters.

Like other countries in the region, Algeria’s government has banned most international travel and closed down mosques as a means to delay the virus’s spread.

Only now — as in Hong Kong, Iraq and Lebanon — measures intended to prevent crowds that are fodder for the virus have also proved deadly to anti-government and pro-democracy street movements.

By: Miriam Berger

4:52 PM: Massachusetts eases rules for bringing on health-care workers

As confirmed coronavirus cases swell past 200 in Massachusetts, the state is loosening requirements for licensing health-care workers so that more doctors, nurses and emergency staff can respond to the crisis.

Gov. Charlie Baker (R) on Tuesday ordered that any physicians who retired in good standing in the past year can have their licenses reactivated immediately upon request.

Baker’s orders also extend expiring registrations for nurses, pharmacists and physician assistants until 90 days after the state’s emergency declaration ends.

Physicians licensed in another state who can show they are in good standing can receive a temporary Massachusetts license that will remain valid during the state of emergency, according to Baker’s orders.

Health care will continue for the state’s many college and university students throughout the emergency, and nurses, social workers, psychologists and medical doctors will be allowed to provide health services across state lines to students who have had to return home.

Baker also announced the state was distributing $5 million in emergency funds for Massachusetts’s community health boards.

“This additional funding will support COVID-19 public health emergency resources in cities and towns, and the Baker-Polito Administration will execute emergency contracts with cities and health districts that have sufficient capacity to receive and utilize funding,” read a statement from the governor’s office.

By: Derek Hawkins

4:23 PM: U.S. coronavirus death toll reaches 100

Coronavirus has killed from coast to coast. It devastated a nursing home in Washington state and crept into the heartland. Across the United States, at least 100 people infected with the highly contagious new virus have now died — a toll that experts expect to rise quickly.

This country’s first fatal cases offer a preview of the challenges ahead, as Americans battle a disease that has killed thousands of people worldwide. The Washington Post has tracked every known U.S. death and has analyzed data provided by state and local health officials, families of the victims, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of the first 100 reported fatalities, many people appear to have had underlying health conditions, making it harder for their bodies to fight off covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Some had diabetes, kidney failure, hypertension or pulmonary ailments.

Nearly all — about 85 percent — were older than 60, and about 45 percent were older than 80. It’s unclear how some of them contracted the disease, but more than a third were living in residential care facilities when they became ill.

What is known about the scale of transmission and the high number of deaths among vulnerable populations — as at the Life Care Center of Kirkland in Washington state, where 27 of the facility’s 120 residents have died — have experts deeply concerned.

“I see that as the ‘canary in a coal mine’ situation,” said Fred Buckner, an attending physician at the University of Washington Medical Center. “I suspect it’s going to be taking off in other locations just like it is in the Seattle area. There’s no reason not to think that. Obviously, that means more deaths.”

By: Reis Thebault, Abigail Hauslohner and Jacqueline Dupree

4:12 PM: Guatemala suspends flights of Salvadoran and Honduran asylum seekers

MEXICO CITY — The government of Guatemala said Tuesday that it would suspend flights of Salvadoran and Honduran asylum seekers sent to the country from the United States. Flights of Guatemalan deportees were also suspended “as a precautionary measure while adequate health protocols are established,” the Guatemalan foreign ministry said in a statement.

Since last December, nearly 1,000 Honduran and Salvadoran asylum seekers have been sent to Guatemala from the United States under a so-called “safe third country” agreement. That deal allowed the United States to essentially export asylum seekers to Guatemala, where they were given the chance to apply for refuge.

Guatemala has six confirmed cases of the virus. Its president, Alejandro Giammattei, banned travel from the United States and Canada last Friday.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the United States has continued deportations, asylum hearings and immigration enforcement. Guatemala’s refusal to accept Central American asylum seekers still leaves the U.S. with the ability to send those migrants to await their hearings in Mexico, where there are at least 82 confirmed coronavirus cases. The U.S. is also still implementing programs to process and swiftly deport many other asylum seekers back to their countries of origin.

By: Kevin Sieff

3:53 PM: FEMA will play secondary role as White House anchors emergency management

The Trump administration is not preparing to deploy the Federal Emergency Management Agency as the lead agency managing the coronavirus response, despite calls in recent days for FEMA to take on a more muscular role.

Lizzie Litzow, a FEMA spokesperson, said in a statement that the agency “remains in support of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the White House Task Force who is leading the whole-of-government response.”

FEMA is expected to take on more responsibility as states and local jurisdictions appeal for help from the federal government, particularly as they struggle to cope with severe disruptions to daily life and economic activity.

But one senior administration official involved in the response said the White House would remain in the driver’s seat, with HHS and CDC technical guidance, given the magnitude of the challenge facing the government. The global pandemic is not like a hurricane or flood with a localized and regional impact, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the administration’s strategy.

Litzow said FEMA would play a “supporting role” through its network of regional administrators as states and local jurisdictions appeal for help. The agency is also making incident management teams available to help those jurisdictions on the ground. “FEMA will continue supporting all states and territories during this dynamic situation,” she said.

Though FEMA doesn’t do medical testing, the agency could help hard-hit states with communications, logistics and contracts, experts say. During the H1N1 epidemic in 2009, FEMA was prepared to staff every state with a small team, according to former FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate.

But, Fugate warned, “FEMA does not have a lot of anything” in terms of stockpiling supplies and materials.

That, he said, is why the current plan of social distancing is so critical. Otherwise, the agency will quickly run out of supplies.

By: Nick Miroff and Frances Stead Sellers

3:46 PM: U.S. government, tech industry are discussing ways to use phone location data to combat coronavirus

The U.S. government is in active talks with Facebook, Google and a wide array of tech companies and health experts about how they can use location data gleaned from Americans’ phones to combat the novel coronavirus, including tracking whether people are keeping one another at safe distances to stem the outbreak.

Public-health experts are interested in the possibility that private-sector companies could compile the data in anonymous, aggregated form, which they could then use to map the spread of the infection, according to three people familiar with the effort, who requested anonymity because the project is in its early stages.

Analyzing trends in smartphone owners’ whereabouts could prove to be a powerful tool for health authorities looking to track the coronavirus, which has infected more than 180,000 people globally. But it’s also an approach that could leave some Americans uncomfortable, depending on how it’s implemented, given the sensitivity when it comes to details of their daily whereabouts.

In recent interviews, Facebook executives said the U.S. government is particularly interested in understanding patterns of people’s movements, which can be derived through data the company collects from users who allow it.

Read the story.

By: Tony Romm, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg

3:38 PM: Iraq’s leading cleric says treating coronavirus patients is a religious duty

a group of people standing in front of a building: A poster of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani seen in February reads “Peace, father of Iraq,” in Baghdad. © Khalid Mohammed/AP A poster of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani seen in February reads “Peace, father of Iraq,” in Baghdad.

Iraq’s most powerful Shiite cleric issued a ruling Tuesday calling it an Islamic duty for doctors and nurses to help those with the coronavirus and decreeing that medical workers who die while on the job will be considered martyrs, a status of great honor.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani released the letter on his official website as the number of infections and deaths continued to rise across the Middle East, following the outbreak of the virus in Iran last month.

“Treating patients, caring for them, and carrying out their affairs is an Islamic duty for all those qualified to perform these tasks including physicians, nurses and others,” he wrote. “The responsible authorities must provide them with all of the necessary supplies to protect them from the risk of contracting the disease themselves and they have no excuse for failing to do so.”

Sistani is the religious leader of Iraq’s majority Shiite Muslim community. He also wields considerable political power, often more than Iraq’s elected officials, and has opposed Iran’s interventions in Iraq.

Iraqis have been watching the spread of the coronavirus with rising panic. Their health-care system, once one of the best in the region, is ill-equipped to handle the epidemic after years of war and corruption.

Neighboring Iran has been hit hardest in the region, and critics say the government has underreported the true extent of the epidemic.

Last week, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, similarly ruled that doctors and nurses killed by the virus will be considered martyrs. However, his decree was met with derision by some inside Iran who accused him of leaving front-line health-care workers unprepared from the start.

By: Miriam Berger

3:34 PM: As borders close, E.U. nationals find themselves trapped in other countries

Just a day after Hungary announced that it would shut all its borders to block personal travel, it moved to briefly make an exception to that restriction: so that thousands of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens in the country could leave.

“Our primary criteria is to protect the health of Hungarian citizens, and this is also the goal served by our border protection measures,” Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said in a Facebook post Tuesday.

“Taking all this into account, we will be affording Romanian and Bulgarian citizens a single transit opportunity during the course of tonight along the designated transit routes, to facilitate their return home,” he added.

The border will be opened for several hours Tuesday evening to allow the foreign nationals to return to their countries, Szijjártó said.

The novel coronavirus outbreak has led many European nations to reconsider their long-standing commitment to visa-free travel under the Schengen Agreement, with nations such as France and Poland suspending borderless travel.

Hungary announced Monday that it would be closing its borders to all personal travel, with the exception of Hungarian nationals returning home. But the abrupt decision had left many foreign nationals, used to the Schengen area’s policy of frictionless travel, stranded.

Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu complained to his Hungarian counterpart Tuesday that the border closures had left 3,500 Romanians stranded at the border between Austria and Hungary.

Restrictions on travel at Poland’s borders have also left citizens of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania stranded, with governments now trying to mount a rescue operation by air and sea to get their citizens safely home.

By: Adam Taylor

3:26 PM: Pompeo says a ‘handful’ of State Department employees have coronavirus

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a “handful” of State Department employees have tested positive for coronavirus, his first acknowledgment that the disease has spread to U.S. diplomatic personnel.

“We’ve had a couple of employees — you can count ’em on one hand — who have positive tests,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. “We’ve handled those exactly the way we’re asking every American to respond to those, wherever they find themselves in the world.”

Pompeo did not say where the virus was contracted or indicate that the department would shut down or reduce operations beyond the teleworking schedule and restricted travel restrictions that were put in place in recent days.

Pompeo came under criticism on Monday from Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who accused him of failing to provide guidance to employees about the spread of the virus to diplomats.

Pompeo rejected that, saying his aides put out numerous guidelines to employees about cautionary steps they should take.

The secretary also criticized Iran and China for spreading false information about the virus, and blaming the U.S. for its proliferation.

“Iranian leadership is trying to avoid responsibility,” he said. “The Wuhan virus is a killer and the Iranian regime is an accomplice.”

He also said he regretted Beijing’s decision on Tuesday to kick out U.S. journalists operating in China, a move made following the Trump administration placing restrictions on Chinese state-run media in the United States.

“I hope they’ll reconsider,” he said.

By: John Hudson

3:11 PM: Pence asks construction companies to donate masks to hospitals

Emergency Medical Technician Emma Vargas prepares N95 protective masks in New Rochelle, N.Y. on Tuesday. (Mike Segar/Reuters) Emergency Medical Technician Emma Vargas prepares N95 protective masks in New Rochelle, N.Y. on Tuesday. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Vice President Pence on Tuesday called on construction companies to donate protective masks to hospitals, in a stark sign of dwindling supplies.

“We would urge construction companies to donate their inventory of N95 masks to your local hospital and forgo additional orders of those industrial masks,” Pence said at a White House briefing. “Those industrial masks that they use on construction sites are perfectly acceptable for health care workers to be protected from a respiratory disease.”

Some hospitals and former health officials have reported low supplies.

“Doctors in Denver where the virus hasn’t been yet say they are almost out of masks,” Andy Slavitt, the former head of Medicare and Medicaid during the Obama administration, said Monday on Twitter.

“Current mask producers could make more and there are some dormant factories,” Slavitt said. “The government must tell them now that they will pay for them.”

Former Food and Drug Administration chief Robert Califf called for a World War II-style mobilization to produce more protective gear.

“We have a current shortage and a looming crisis,” he tweeted.

Jennifer Ehrlich, a spokeswoman for Minnesota-based 3M, said the company has increased production of N95 masks at its factories in the U.S., China, Europe and Latin America. She declined to quantify the increase, or to provide details on the resources 3M is dedicating to the effort.

“Manufacturing capacities of specific plants and products, as well as specific sales volume and customer information, are 3M confidential information,” Ehrlich said.

3M is dedicating more of its output to health care workers than to industrial customers, she added.

Eric Krantz, a spokesman for Honeywell, said the company is “rapidly moving to add capacity in the U.S. for N95 masks,” after increasing production at multiple factories globally. He did not immediately quantify those increases.

By: Jeanne Whalen

3:08 PM: Italy announces 345 new deaths, pushing toll past 2,500

a man standing in front of a television: A doctor watches a coronavirus patient under treatment in the intensive care unit of the Brescia hospital in Italy on Monday. (Luca Bruno/Associated Press) A doctor watches a coronavirus patient under treatment in the intensive care unit of the Brescia hospital in Italy on Monday. (Luca Bruno/Associated Press)

The Italian government on Tuesday announced 345 new deaths from the novel coronavirus outbreak, bringing the death toll up to 2,526.

The total number of confirmed cases in the outbreak in Italy now stands at 31,506, an increase of more than 3,500 from the day before, according to figures released by Emergency Commissioner and Civil Protection Chief Angelo Borrelli.

Just over half of the cases are in the northern province of Lombardy, where there are now 16,220 cases.

The numbers were in line with those from the past three days, where new cases have consistently been above 3,000 each day and new deaths above 300.

The country, which is the hardest hit globally outside of the epicenter in China, now accounts for a third of all deaths from the novel coronavirus around the world.

By: Adam Taylor

 

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